Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: F1 drivers agree to race despite security concerns after missile attack

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Fire at oil facility near Jeddah
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is live on 5 Live and the BBC Sport website

Formula 1 drivers say they agreed to race in Saudi Arabia this weekend despite security concerns following a missile attack near the Jeddah track.

The race will go ahead on Sunday following four hours of meetings between drivers and senior figures. The decision was made at 02:30 local time.

A statement from the Grand Prix Drivers' Association said it had been "difficult to erase natural concerns".

They were reassured by F1 bosses and Saudi government ministers, it said.

The drivers' decision to race came at the end of an extraordinary day in Jeddah following a missile attack on an oil facility nine miles from the track.

Drivers started a discussion over whether to race an hour after second practice had finished and remained in the room while various senior figures came and went.

Jeddah circuit for the Saudi Arabian GP
The Jeddah Corniche circuit is surrounded by coastline

The GPDA statement on Saturday said it had been "a difficult day for Formula 1 and a stressful day for us F1 drivers".

It added: "On seeing the smoke from the incident, it was difficult to remain a fully focused race driver and erase natural human concerns.

"Consequently we went into long discussions between ourselves, with our team principals, and with the most senior people who run our sport.

"A large variety of opinions were shared and debated and, having listened not only to the F1 powers but also to the Saudi government ministers - who explained how security measures were being elevated to the maximum - the outcome was a resolution that we would practise and qualify today and race tomorrow.

"We therefore hope that the 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will be remembered as a good race rather than for the incident that took place yesterday."

An F1 statement said: "Following the widely reported incident that took place in Jeddah on Friday, there has been extensive discussion between all stakeholders, the Saudi government authorities and security agencies, who have given full and detailed assurances that the event is secure.

"It has been agreed with all stakeholders to maintain a clear and open dialogue throughout the event and for the future."

The series of meetings to discuss the incident at the oil facility began before second practice, which was delayed by 15 minutes after the attack as team bosses and drivers were called to a meeting with F1 president Stefano Domenicali.

A second meeting started after second practice and continued into the early hours with senior figures.

A significant number of drivers had concerns about the safety of the event following the attack.

But eventually they were convinced to go ahead and race after being given further information by bosses.

Among the considerations, BBC Sport has been told, was the potential impact calling off the race might have - whether there could be delays in personnel or freight leaving the country, for example.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said: "The drivers were concerned, all of us were concerned. We had assurances from the F1 and Saudi government - assurances that everything would be safe.

"They are still concerned but they listen to the reassurance we give them, and they understand the importance of staying here and racing. It was important for them to raise their voice. They are stars and it was important for them to make sure they are listened to."

Among the assurances the teams and drivers received were that the Houthi rebels in Yemen who have claimed the attack are targeting infrastructure and not civilians or events.

It is likely that the events of the weekend will lead to discussions about the race's future. Questions about the Saudi race's viability have already been raised at senior levels of the sport.

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